Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Time on My Hands edition

Because I had such a slow weekend last weekend, I had a lot of free time to surf the web and collect news stories the few hours that I wasn’t watching House of Cards or sleeping. My boring weekend is your gain – this week’s edition of the pop culture roundup is jam packed with fun stuff. But don’t get too used to this – I think my next completely free weekend is sometime in October.

  • Jon Stewart is taking a three month hiatus from The Daily Show.  John Oliver will fill in as host.
  • Speaking of The Daily Show, this recent segment on maple syrup slayed me. I was literally laughing out loud. Well done.

 

  • Rest in Peace, Bonnie Franklin. The actress, best known from One Day at a Time, passed away at the age of 69.
  • I don’t watch the show Switched at Birth, but this is very cool – Monday night’s episode was done entirely in sign language.
  • Happy birthday to The Big Lebowski, which turns 15 years old today! The Dude continues to abide.
  • This doesn’t quite reach the beauty of the death star construction request, but there is an active petition request to the Obama Administration to change the national anthem to R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix).” I’m not saying it is a good idea, but that would be way more fun way to kick off sporting events (added bonus – no high notes):

What’s more American than “it’s the freaking weekend, I’m about to have me some fun?”

  • My red hot disdain of Kristen Stewart has been duly noted on the blog, but she doesn’t have a monopoly on my fury. In fact, I might even despise Taylor Swift more. Her latest crime? Implying that Amy Poehler and Tina Fey are going to hell because of a joke they told about Swift at the Golden Globes.
  • While we’re on the subject of people who I dislike, Halle Berry is confirmed to appear in the new X-men movie.
  • The Hold Steady is recording a song for the third season of Game of Thrones, lyrics by George R.R. Martin.
  • A trailer for the new season of Mad Men has been released. Can’t wait!

 

  • A new trailer for Iron Man 3 was released yesterday:

 

  • Fox has renewed The Following, New Girl, Raising Hope and The Mindy Project.
  • Joan Rivers has launched a new webseries where she interviews celebrities in bed.
  • Ben McKenzie has been cast in a pilot at CBS, which means that the renewal of Southland is not a sure thing.
  • I still don’t understand what is going on with Dennis Rodman and Kim Jong-un.
  • Ha! This timely House of Cards parody, House of Cardinals, gets the tone just right.

 

  • Color me intrigued – Christian Bale is rumored to be reprising his role as Batman in the upcoming Justice League movie.
  • It pains me to say this, but the new episodes of Community this season haven’t been good. However, I am intrigued by the idea of doing an all-puppet episode.
  • Tyler Kitsch has resurfaced. He’ll appear in the HBO movie The Normal Heart.
  • Watch Mark Wahlberg and Diddy play a drinking game on Ellen:

 

  • Wahlberg hasn’t closed the door on a reunion with the Funky Bunch. This is a terrible idea, but I totally hope this happens.
  • I’m super excited to possibly be going to see Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake play Yankee Stadium this summer. One person I can guarantee won’t be there is Kanye West.
  • JT will be hosting Saturday Night Live this weekend and will be on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon every night next week. I can only assume “The History of Rap, Part 4” is in the works.
  • How bad have things gotten for NBC? A local affiliate has opted to air Matlock instead of the network’s Thursday night’s lineup.
  • This sounds interesting – Speilberg is developing a miniseries about Napoleon that was written by Stanley Kubrik.
  • Albany peeps – local musician Sean Rowe made his national television debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Monday night. Good for him!

 

  • In pilot news, Naveen Andrews (Sayid, Lost) has landed a role in an ABC drama.
  • Presented without comment – Gary Busey discussing hobbits:

 

  • Feeling lucky? A new website will randomly select a Nicholas Cage movie for you to watch (Netflix streaming account required)
  • The George Lucas museum is coming to San Francisco.
  • This is disappointing – Sam Mendes will not return to direct the next James Bond film.
  • Carrie Fisher will return as Princess Leia in the new Star Wars movie.
  • This may be the greatest interview of all time. I already like Mila Kunis beforehand, but this sealed the deal. Gotta support a fellow Blue Moon fan.

 

  • Neat-O. A portrait of Stephen Colbert, made up of all the words uttered on The Colbert report:

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  • Jason Bateman will team up with Tina Fey in This Is Where I Leave You. The funny duo will play siblings.
  • 90210 is ending its run at the end of this season. I honestly didn’t even know this show was still on.
  • Alexis Bledel (Rory, The Gilmore Girls) is returning to TV is a starring role in a comedy pilot for Fox.
  • Jon Hamm voiced a talking toilet on this week’s Bob’s Burgers and it was glorious:

 

  • Tom Hardy will appear on Discovery Channel’s new show, Driven to Extremes.
  • This mash up of “Call Me Maybe” and Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like a Hole” is actually pretty catchy:

 

  • Just because it is awesome, the opening credits of the Dutch version of Golden Girls:

You can check out versions from other countries here.

  • If you ever dreamed of owning a closet like Cher’s in Clueless, you are in luck. We have the technology.
  • Happy news – both Jimmy Smits and Donal Logue will return next season on Sons of Anarchy.
  • And finally……A Star Wars/School House Rock mash-up:

 

See a story that you think should be included in these bi-weekly roundups? Want to see your name in the blog? Want to do my job for me? Feel free to send any suggestions my way via the blog’s Facebook page, the blog’s twitter account (@AsHeathersworld) or in the comments section of this post. I post random pop culture stories on Facebook, so don’t forget to like the page so you don’t miss anything. Thanks to avid blog reader and faux-cousin Chris for the suggestion!

Lawless – A DVD Review

Lawless has all the ingredients to be a pretty entertaining movie by my standards: a bunch of actors I like, based on a true story, gangsters and violence. However, it failed to hold my attention throughout the movie; a meandering story and some too over the top characters failed to fully engage me. There are some solid performances here, but mayhem can’t cover up the flaws in the plotting. Lawless commits the biggest sin of them all: it was boring.

Set in the 1930s, Lawless tells the tale of three bootlegging brothers in Franklin County Virginia: Forrest (Tom Hardy), the stoic leader of the group; Howard (Jason Clarke), the enforcer; and Jack (Shia LaBeouf), the runt of the group who serves primarily as their driver, but wants to do more. When Special Deputy Charley Rakes (Guy Pearce) rolls into town demanding a cut of the profits from all the bootleggers in the county, the Bondurant brothers are the only ones to refuse to give in to the intimidation. Thus begins a war between the brothers and the Special Deputy, which results in a lot of bloodshed.

I’m the not the world’s biggest Shia LaBeouf fan, but he’s pretty solid as Jack. He’s given the most to do in this film, as the youngest brother tries to find his role in the family enterprise and tries to become a player in the bootlegging game, rather than a spectator. Lawless is really Jack’s journey, which is not all that surprising as the book that the film is based on (The Wettest County in the World) is written by the real Jack Bondurant’s grandson. Tom Hardy has the less showy performance and I don’t know if Forrest is a really supposed to be an emotionless guy or that’s just Hardy, but it quietly works for the most part. Jason Clarke is underutilized as Howard, the least fleshed out of the brothers. Clarke could have done a lot more if permitted.

The main issue with the film is that it doesn’t know how to get out of its own way. The central premise outlined above is enough to make an interesting film about, but whatever momentum that story has is repeatedly squashed by needless detours into less interesting subplots. Two of these subplots involve actresses that I like a lot (Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska); however, these stories are not all that developed and feel shoehorned into the rest of the movie. Perhaps they felt that there had to be some women in the film, but unfortunately these subplots serve more as a distraction more than anything else. The actresses did a good job, but their roles were unnecessary as written.

I also thought that Guy Pearce’s Special Deputy was so one note and over the top that is was just too much. You can be a charismatic bad guy – see Heath Ledger as The Joker – but there has to be balance and some subtlety. Special Agent Rakes was a bit of a straw man bad guy; he was a bunch of stereotypes and broad personality traits without a lot of substance. I didn’t need his entire back story, but a little more restraint in the performance or characterization would have been preferred. Perhaps Pearce was simply trying to liven up these proceedings; at least when he was on screen, things were interesting. It may have been a little cartoony, but I did pay more attention when he was in a scene.

Some other quick thoughts:

  • The Dark Knight Rises has kind of ruined Tom Hardy for me; now every time I see him in anything, I expect to hear that weird Bane voice coming out of his mouth. Actually, the Bane voice might have livened things up. I found Hardy mumbled a lot in Lawless.
  • For whatever other failings that Lawless has, the cinematography is beautiful. It’s a nice film to look at and I like the clothing from that time period. Not enough men wear hats anymore (other than ball caps).
  • Fun facts: James Franco and Ryan Gosling were originally attached to play Howard and Forrest, respectively. I love both actors, but that would have been very different takes on the characters. However, we know from Gangster Squad that Gosling would have looked fabulous in the clothing.
  • I’ve read a lot made of the violence of the film, which I didn’t think was really all that exaggerated. Maybe that says more about me and the movies I typically watched; your sensibilities may vary.
  • The movie poster is trying to cash in on Jessica Chastain’s recent rise to stardom; her character is a supporting character and mostly in the background.

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The odd choice of pacing and the constant diversions into less compelling subplots holds Lawless back and makes it an uneven movie.  The actors do what they can, but ultimately this is a movie that has what could be an exciting premise that it ultimately refuses to take advantage of . The result is a film that never really takes off; there are sporadic moments of excitement, but Lawless is dull overall.